FILE - The login/sign up screen for a Twitter account is seen on a laptop computer Tuesday, April 27, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. Musk is offering to buy Twitter, Thursday, April 14, 2022. He says the social media platform he has criticized for not living up to free speech principles needs to be transformed as a private company. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

FILE - The login/sign up screen for a Twitter account is seen on a laptop computer Tuesday, April 27, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. Musk is offering to buy Twitter, Thursday, April 14, 2022. He says the social media platform he has criticized for not living up to free speech principles needs to be transformed as a private company. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

Can you place a monetary value on free speech?

Patrick Davies’ column to the Free Press

What’s the value of free speech?

It’s a question I’ve been asking myself a lot in the last few weeks as I watch Twitter seem to implode in real time.

Now I should preface the following by acknowledging that when it comes to the Internet, predictions often age poorly. Conversation and attention ebb and flow like the tides; what is hot one week is often forgotten about the next.

It is the very volatility in the online space that makes companies like Twitter attractive to users and advertisers. It was relatively stable and considered a safe investment of both time and money.

In the last three weeks since billionaire Elon Musk, best known for being CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, purchased Twitter for an inflated value of $44 billion the platform has been, for lack of a better word, on fire. Musk has long claimed to be a “free speech absolutist” and many people unhappy with Twitter’s previous management welcomed his takeover.

Now, I’ve not been a fan of Musk. While I certainly admire what he’s trying to do to advance humanity, a colony on Mars and stylish electric cars are fun ideas, in general, he has several personal flaws and hypocrisies that his immense wealth have only magnified.

One of the most notable is the fact the ‘free speech absolutist’ absolutely does not support free speech. Over the years Musk has consistently shown a hatred for being made fun of to the point some theorize he bought Twitter partially to silence those critics.

Musk proudly declared in his first week of owning the company Twitter would be a “politically neutral” platform that favoured neither left nor right. Two days before the US mid-term elections, he naturally endorsed the Republicans.

Because I guess when you are the owner of the company you don’t have to be politically neutral?

Now Musk has the absolute right to say what he wants to say and do what he wants to do with Twitter. For the price of $ 44 billion, I suppose he’s ‘earned it’.

But as I’ve said time and time again, having free speech does not make you free of the consequences of exercising that speech. Say something racially charged, you get called a racist. Threaten advertisers with boycotts when they pull advertising, prepare to see your expensive new company further hemorrhage money.

Ultimately, free speech both online and in person is an important part of today’s society. It keeps democratic institutions robust and allows us to hold those with power accountable. There is no true price you can put upon such freedom.

Even if Twitter dies there are still plenty of online town halls to share your opinions on. Or better yet we could all just go check out the original home of free speech, our local pub. There we can make fun of the world’s richest man with a beer in our hands and a smile on our lips.



patrick.davies@100milefreepress.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

100 Mile House